Review of Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo


Genre: Devotional/Christian Life

Not Recommended.

Heaven Changes Everything is a devotional reader based on the bestselling Heaven is for Real (a young boy’s experience of going to heaven and back). Each of the 42 short chapters begins with a quote from Heaven is for Real, followed by a personal reflection based on that quotation, and ending with a sentence of advise and a Bible verse. Some of the topics focus on heaven, but many are narratives of general Christian living. Overall, the book reads like a blog of reflections on past experiences: candid and personal encouragement about life and God through day-to-day stories.

I felt that this book was “just okay.” I enjoyed reading many of the stories, but didn’t feel it was deep enough or substantial enough to compete with the many other devotional books on the market. I also thought it was odd–considering this is a devotional reader–that each chapter was focused on a quotation from Heaven is for Real, instead of on a scripture or Bible passage. I would have liked to have seen the scripture have a larger part of the message–not that the messages were unbiblical (they weren’t)–but that a focus on scripture can bring an additional layer of wisdom to our personal experiences. The format was such that the scriptures felt like an after-thought, rather than a reflection point. So, despite some of the encouraging context, I don’t feel that Heaven Changes Everything is a resource I can recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogging Program through


Review of Fearless Daughters of the Bible by J. Lee Grady


Genre: Christian Life/Personal Growth/Gender Studies

Highly Recommended!

Fearless Daughters of the Bible edifies Christian woman to boldness in the Lord through biblical stories integrated with examples from history and personal commentary. Each chapter focuses on a woman from the Bible who had courage in a particular area; for instance: “The Five Daughters of Zelophehad: The Courage to Challenge Tradition,” “Hannah, the Mother of Samuel: The Courage to Believe God,” or “Priscilla, Spiritual Daughter of the Apostle Paul: The Courage to Mentor Others.” The chapters cover a great variety of women and circumstances–some widely known, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, and some lesser known, like Achsah, Daughter of Caleb. There are also questions and a personal message at the end of each chapter, making this an ideal book for an independent or group devotional study.

My favorite chapter was on the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well. I have heard commentary on this story so many times, and yet Grady shared details of the event that I had never considered. I had never realized, for instance, that the well was on the same land where Dinah was raped. I have been learning lately about the deep importance (and spiritual ramifications) of location; so, these details about the land of Samaria added so much to the otherwise familiar account. It also caught my attention that, unless her encounter with Jesus had caused a very visible and distinctive change, this women–who had experienced so much rejection–would never have been believed by so many in her city. And yet, the scriptures show the woman at the well as a successful evangelist, bringing salvation to many by sharing her encounter with the Lord (John 4:39-42).

As cliche as it may be to say: every Christian woman could benefit from this book! It is encouraging, insightful, and lovingly written by a man who greatly desires to edify women in their personal callings. For more information about the author, check out his ministry: The Mordecai Project.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Chosen.


Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts


What happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon someone? I shared earlier about my own experience with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, including the initial evidences in my own life. Now, I’d like to simply list some of the accounts in the book of Acts where believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, along with the physical evidence that the Spirit-filled believers manifested at this time:

Acts 2: Devout Jews and proselytes from every nation had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and filled them. They each heard the gospel in their own languages and many received salvation through Jesus. Then, Peter explained to the crowd what was happening, because this was the first time the Holy Spirit was poured out corporately in this way.

What happened when the Spirit came upon them:

  • The Holy Spirit was heard/felt as a violent rushing wind (Acts 2:2)
  • There appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and the fire rested on each one of them (Acts 2:3)
  • They began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance–most likely other human languages (Acts 2:4-11)
  • They acted as if they were drunk (Acts 2:13-16)
  • Peter connected the event as a partial fulfillment to Joel 2, which prophesies that both men and women, both young and old, both slaves and free-men, will have dreams, visions, and prophesies from God when they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-21)
  • The effects of the Holy Spirit were both seen and heard (Acts 3:33)
  • Everyone felt a sense of awe (Acts 3:43)
  • Signs and wonders were taking place (Acts 3:43)
  • The people had one mind and became a unified community, even sharing their possessions with each other, eating together, and praising God together (Acts 3:37-47)

Acts 4: A group of believers, including Peter and John, is arrested for teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

How did the Holy Spirit evidence Himself:

  • Peter and John–uneducated and untrained men–spoke with clarity and boldness (Acts 4:8-13)
  • They had earlier healed a man, and it was recognized as a noteworthy miracle (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 4:14-16)
  • They had unprecedented boldness and were unable to stop speaking about what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20, 31, 33)
  • They were unified as one body, sharing everything (Acts 4:32-37)

Acts 7:54-60: Stephen is stoned to death while full of the Holy Spirit.

How did the Holy Spirit evidence Himself:

  • Stephen was able to gaze into heaven and see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God
  • He was given the power to forgive them as they were violently killing him

Acts 9: Saul’s conversion: Jesus appeared to Saul and spoke audibly to him (so that even the men with him could hear). The experience left Saul blind. Then, Ananias was led by God to visit Saul (a big deal, since Saul persecuted Jewish believers like Ananias). When Ananias laid hands on Saul and prophesied over him, he was filled with the Spirit.

What happened when the Spirit came upon him:

  • Saul received spiritual wisdom (the scales fell off his eyes)
  • His physical blindness was healed
  • He became a completely different person: not only did he stop persecuting the Jewish believers, he began to proclaim Jesus openly in the synagogues

Acts 10:34-48: As Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon those who were listening.

What happened when the Holy Spirit came upon them:

  • Both Jews and gentiles received the Spirit (Acts 10:45)
  • They spoke in tongues and exalted God (Acts 10:46)
  • In this case, the baptism in the Holy Spirit came before the baptism in water (Acts 10:47-48)

Of course, this isn’t a complete list; the book of Acts is long, and (being that it focuses on the “Acts of the Apostles”) includes multiple records of signs, wonders, and miracles that I neglected to mention. It is also interesting to note that although the Holy Spirit was available in the Old Testament, this was the first time that the Holy Spirit was available in fullness (not that we receive in fullness, but that He was fully given by God). Earlier I had mentioned Shavuot–rather than the Greek, Pentecost–because it is worthwhile to understand the parallel between the giving of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Torah to Moses. Just as the Torah was fully given to Moses, but gradually and continually understood, so is the Holy Spirit fully available but gradually and continually absorbed. This is why the baptism of the Holy Spirit is so important–not just as a one time event, but continually as we walk with God.

I also want to note that, although the followers of Jesus were completely devoted to Him while He was on earth (and baptized in water by John), it was not until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit that they were able to connect with Jesus intimately from His place in heaven, and to effectively begin their ministries. In fact, I don’t think they even understood their ministries until they were filled with the Holy Spirit–after all, right before Jesus ascended, they asked if it was the time for the restoration of Israel. They were focused on themselves, and their nation, but the “great commission” was and is for the whole world. Without the fullness of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to fulfill the great plans of the Lord.


My Personal Experience with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit


Someone emailed me recently, asking what I meant on the “About Me” page when I mentioned I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I really can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this already, since there is so much to say on the topic. I’m going to post a few entries about this, trying to keep each one concise enough to be comprehensible; I’ll begin with my personal experience and move on shortly to the more important theological and biblical contexts.

I was first introduced to the idea of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in college. I had joined a campus ministry that happened to be under the Assemblies of God denomination, which is somewhat charismatic. Although I was incapable at that point of comprehending much of anything theological (because of my deep involvement in the occult and inhabiting demonic spirits), I do remember some of my Christian friends engaging in a long argument about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and, as they put it, the “initial evidence of speaking in tongues”. Not everyone in the campus fellowship came from an AG background (most, probably, did not); and it quickly became a big discussion, with both sides using scripture to defend their positions. I did not know what was going on, but I knew I wanted more of God, so I started praying that I, too, would speak in tongues. It didn’t happen, and eventually other prayers–for survival and basic needs–took priority.

Some years later, I had reached my “bottom”. It was our first year of marriage, and I was so troubled that my problems were affecting both of us. I was seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist and taking tons of medication for my various psychological diagnoses, with little positive effect. Through God’s divine providence, I was given the opportunity to meet with a deliverance minister. (Deliverance ministers are like specialized counselors: they do everything from “normal” God-centered counseling and reconciliation, to helping people connect with and hear God personally, helping people understand and renounce the lies that they have believed, to the more extreme cases of casting out demons.) My first meeting with the deliverance minister, he asked if I had been baptized in water and received Jesus as my savior. I affirmed that I had. Then he asked if I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand his question.

The minister explained to me on real simple terms the basics about the Holy Spirit, the importance of building a relationship with Him, and the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” that John the Baptist indicates as a separate experience from water baptism (Mark 1:7-8, Luke 3:16, John 1:31-34), and which is extended on in other places in the New Testament (especially: Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-7) . Something like that… Honestly, I don’t remember much of what he said.

I decided to welcome the Holy Spirit into my life. But, as soon as I began to ask Him, I was overcome with fear, and wasn’t sure I wanted my life to change. I was still inhabited by multiple demons at this point, so it was a really intense moment and decision. My vision became completely red for a moment, and I was paralyzed with a fear that prevented me from calling on God. The pastor could see that something was going on and asked me what I was feeling. He told me I needed to be absolutely sure that I wanted more of God, because I would have to give up everything.

After a moment of thought, I was sure of my decision. I asked the Holy Spirit very simply and sincerely to come into my life, and He answered my prayer. I immediately fell over. It felt like slow motion–not that anyone was pushing me over (no one was touching me)–but that I could not stand up in the presence of such a mighty God. I felt His presence fall on my head, and travel through my body. I saw a translucent gold water rush through my insides; it stayed in my vision for some time. (Later, as I read the gospel of John, I read that the Holy Spirit is living water, and recalled my experience–I can’t think of a better way to describe this except that living water had rushed into me.) I also felt pure joy, and began to laugh uncontrollably as the joy continued to surround me. It was the first time I had felt freedom.

I did not begin to speak in tongues that day. (I do now, and will share that experience upon request.) It also took three months for the inhabiting demons to be cast out–not that it couldn’t have happened instantly, but that by dealing with it slowly, I was able to close the spiritual doors that should never have been opened, and to gain more understanding of the spiritual realm.

Here is what did happen right away:

  • I received the fruit of the Spirit: most notably, peace and joy
  • For the first time, I became absolutely confident of my salvation
  • I became free from the bondage of sin (if and when I sin now, it is completely my own decision and rebellion)
  • I was given a desire to read the Bible, especially the gospels and New Testament, which had never interested me in the past
  • I became able to understand the scriptures (not completely, of course, but in a way that had not been possible before)
  • I became able to hear from God and recognize His voice (not that He hadn’t already been speaking to me, but that my relationship with Him quickly developed into a two-way friendship)
  • The Holy Spirit became my helper, my teacher, my comforter, and my friend–I could not have made it through the rest of my deliverance (or life thus far) without Him

There are so many ways that the baptism in the Holy Spirit comes about–sometimes in monumental experiences, and sometimes much more subtly. The initial evidences of this experience are also varied. I have been involved with a variety of churches, and have noticed that some Christians do not believe in a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, and yet have experienced it unintentionally by sincerely pursuing God. Stay tuned: next time I’ll address the biblical context of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.